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The discovery gives hope to drillers for extending the life of Pa. mining efforts. Wells could be sunk from existing sites.

As big as the Marcellus Shale gas bonanza has become, it's not the only Pennsylvania geologic formation yielding new and unexpected quantities of natural gas.
Two exploration companies have reported promising discoveries in rock formations layered around the Marcellus like a geologic parfait. Those finds raise the prospect of even more drilling in a state where the gas boom has generated ardent economic hopes as well as passionate environmental fears.

But Zagorski said two new shale formations - the Utica Shale deeper below the surface and the shallower Upper Devonian Shale - were "in the same ballpark" as the Marcellus.

Though both lie under large stretches of the eastern United States - the Utica is being developed in Quebec - Range officials say the Utica Shale appears to be most promising in Western Pennsylvania, and the Upper Devonian Shale in southwestern Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia. Drilling is going on in both areas, including some directed at the Marcellus.

Meanwhile, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., a Houston company, disclosed to analysts last year that it had drilled a successful horizontal well through the Purcell Limestone in its Marcellus acreage in Susquehanna County north of Scranton.

The Purcell Limestone is an intermediate stratum sandwiched between two layers of the Marcellus Shale. Before drilling the Purcell well, Cabot's activity was exclusively confined to the richer, lower Marcellus.

The new well, which produced an impressive 7.3 million cubic feet of gas per day over 30 days, allowed Cabot to access the upper Marcellus Shale without impairing production from its deeper wells, Dan O. Dinges, Cabot's chief executive officer, told analysts in a February conference call.

As old wells go into decline, new wells could be drilled from the same site, satisfying the industry's need to constantly develop new sources to maintain price stability.

Zagorski said the new discoveries were significant enough to be developed on their own, though they are more attractive when done in combination with Marcellus wells.

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